Vegan Dark Chocolate Coconut Snowballs
Leave it to Boston to kick off the first week of the new year with over a foot of snow…
Could we have it any other way?!
Ironically I am writing this post from Austin, Texas where I get to visit my partner Michael and also begin the first weekend of a 4-part 10-month journey with an amazing group of people at Activate Austin this coming weekend. I guess I picked the right time to be away!
I’m so excited to finally be back in the swing of things and bring the “Recipe of the Month” blog back to life. 🙂
In lieu of snow, I figured it would be fitting to share with you my easy 4-ingredient recipe for these magnificent dark chocolate coconut “snowballs”…
If you were at the recent holiday open house at Skin to Soul in Woburn, or my family’s Christmas Eve dinner last month, or the 2016 Wellness Group I co-led with Dr. Wynne Huang at Caring for All… you probably already know what I’m talking about 😀
I’d compare these snowballs to the Mounds bar most of us know and love (if you are a coconut person, that is). Their flavor profile is basically the perfect storm of rich decadent cacao, creamy coconut, and just the right amount of sweetness. Need I say more?!
Like lots of my fellow dietitians (despite our reputation), I’m all about chocolate. And having dessert everyday. This is nothing new.
I’m also really passionate about the idea of “having our cake and eating it too” (I know I say that a lot).
What I mean by this is investing a little bit of extra effort that can go a very long way, allowing us get the best of both worlds: enjoying delicious gourmet style food while reaping the wonderful benefits of healthy living.
Who wouldn’t want that?!
It’s really fabulous to have amazing go-to chocolate treats that are easy to make, nourishing to the bone (literally… magnesium & phosphorous!) and will leave us vibrating with energy and vitality on a cellular level…
Not in a rigid or restrictive way, but in a fun and empowering way. 😉
Of course every food has something to offer and for that reason, as you probably could have guessed, I’m going to educate you on the health benefits of these chocolate coconut snowball treats. How could I forget?!
Let’s just say I almost titled this recipe “PMS Snowballs” (or something like that) because of their high content of iron, potassium and magnesium – minerals which have been shown to help prevent/reduce PMS symptoms (1, 2). And manganese, which seemed to help reduce mood swings and cramps, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (3). Didn’t you ever wonder why so many women seem crave chocolate during a specific time frame every month?! It’s called intuitive eating… our bodies know what they need!
Cacao is the real deal- Just two tablespoons of this stuff offers a whopping 35% daily value of magnesium, 427 milligrams of potassium, 15% daily value iron, PLUS 13% daily value of zinc and over half a day’s worth each of copper and manganese. Not to mention 6 grams of fiber!
Oh… did I mention all of these micronutrients are happen to be vital for blood pressure, immunity, energy metabolism and more? #winning
This recipe calls for half a cup of cacao powder. I’ll let you do the math!
Now, let’s talk about coconut.
There has been a LOT of controversy about coconut products being labeled “health foods” especially in the last year because of their high saturated fat content…
I will make it clear that I do NOT agree with the people who are hating on coconut and accusing its saturated fat content to be a culprit of heart disease…
Nor am I going to tell you that coconut is a magic bullet “super food” that will make all of your problems go away (I don’t think such a thing exists, at least not yet!).
Like most things in life, the answer lies somewhere in the middle – and all of us are very unique from a biochemical standpoint, so remember that rarely can anything be considered an absolute truth when it comes to food and health claims. It’s all relative.
Science is tricky because at any moment I could probably take a bunch of old school research articles from the last five or six decades (which many studies have debunked at this point) and compile them to create a very valid argument against saturated fats for the sake of heart disease.
However, if you look at the latest RECENT research, including this study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine which was published in 2017, you will read that saturated fat is not in fact the ROOT culprit of heart disease. Rather insulin resistance and/or some kind of chronic low-grade systemic inflammation seem to play a role, which makes sense because both of these issues have increased significantly along with the heart disease statistics over the last 50 years despite so many Americans cutting out fats and cholesterol from their diet (4).
For more details on saturated fat health claims being de-bunked, I recommend checking out this article by Gregory Katz, MD at the NYU Langone Online Journal of Medicine (5).
Anyways, I could go on – lots more to say about a very intensive and controversial topic – but next month (February) is National Heart Health Month so I will save the rest of my heart health food for thought until then!
Long story short, the coconut in this recipe serves to provide us with lots of flavor as well as some fats and fiber to keep us feeling satiated and sustained.
Plus, I think it makes for a great “snow” effect… don’t you think?
Lastly, real maple syrup!
You have probably seen maple syrup (not including Eggo & Mrs. Butterworths) make an appearance in a bunch of my recipes. I love it because it’s lower glycemic (has less of an impact on blood sugar) than most other sweeteners, but it still gives a very delicate sweetness and it’s seriously loaded with manganese! According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, manganese is useful in helping conditions such as PMS, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes and epilepsy to name a few (3).
I’m not saying that maple syrup or these snowballs are going to “cure” you of any of these health conditions (that would be nice!). But since this is a medical nutrition therapy blog, I will say it doesn’t hurt to frequently choose maple as your “sweetener of choice” if you are somebody like me who enjoy sweets and will be eating them on-the-reg anyways. 😉
Okay enough of my nerd rambling! Here is the recipe:
- 1/2 cup cacao powder
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup real maple syrup
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded coconut, plus more for coating (set aside in bowl)
- Melt coconut oil and then combine in a bowl with cacao powder.
- Add maple syrup then add shredded coconut.
- Mix thoroughly until uniform.
- Coat a baking sheet with aluminum or wax/parchment paper.
- Roll "dough" into tablespoon sized balls, then roll in additional coconut.
- Place final balls onto baking sheet.
- Cover and store in fridge for up to a week, OR freezer for up to a month.
- This recipe is FODMAP and Celiac compliant.
- GAPS patients: May swap out maple syrup for raw honey.
Happy baking, and I hope you have a safe, warm and cozy upcoming weekend!!!
- Walker AF, et al. (1998). Magnesium supplementation alleviates premenstrual symptoms of fluid retention. J Womens Health.7(9): 1157-65. Retrieved January 5, 2018 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9861593
- Chocano-Bedoya PO, et al. (2013). Intake of Selected Minerals and Risk of Premenstrual Syndrome. Am J Epidemiol. 177(10): 1118–1127. Retrieved January 5, 2018 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3649635/
- Ehrlich (2013). Manganese. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved January 5, 2018 from: http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/manganese
- Malhotra A, et al. (2017). Saturated fat does not clog the arteries: coronary heart disease is a chronic inflammatory condition, the risk of which can be effectively reduced from healthy lifestyle interventions. Br J Sports Med. 51(15): 1111-1112. Retrieved January 5, 2018 from: http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/51/15/1111
- Katz G MD. (2013). The Complicated Story of Saturated Fat. Clinical Correlations: The NYU Langone Online Journal of Medicine. Retrieved January 5, 2018 from: https://www.clinicalcorrelations.org/?p=6993